Buffalo Soldiers History

The legendary name, "Buffalo Soldier," is said to have originated with the Plains Indians, who thought that the hair of the black soldiers resembled the fur of the buffalo, and that their fighting spirit made them worthy opponents.

The name first appeared in a letter from a frontier army wife to The Nation magazine in 1873, and it was soon widely adopted by writers and journalists.

The soldiers seldom used the name amongst themselves, but they did accept the name as complimentary, and eventually the buffalo was used in the crest of the 10th Cavalry Regiment.

NPS Buffalo Soldier Study
September 2016

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African American troops who came to be known as Buffalo Soldiers served in many critical roles throughout the United States, including that of protecting some of the first national parks. Based at the Presidio in San Francisco, Buffalo Soldiers patrolled the backcountry, built trails, stopped poaching, fought fires, and otherwise served in roles later assumed by national park rangers in various locations after the development of the National Park Service in 1916.


In December 2014, Congress authorized the National Park Service to conduct a study to evaluate ways to commemorate and interpret the role of Buffalo Soldiers in the early years of the national park system; enhance historical research, education, and public awareness of their stewardship role in the national parks; and further connect the Buffalo Soldiers story to the national parks and African American military service following the Civil War.


As we commemorate  the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Buffalo Soldiers, the National Park Service is seeking your help to enhance our understanding of the Buffalo Soldiers story, spread the word about how to get involved, and uncover opportunities to improve public awareness going forward.

The Buffalo Soldiers study scoping period is open until December 31, 2016. If you have stories or ideas to contribute, please participate by sharing your insights on the public comment site where you'll also find more general information about the initiative: http://go.usa.gov/xKEMQ

We will compile and analyze the comments provided to develop a study document that will be submitted to Congress.  An online story map will also be developed, providing future generations of National Park Service stakeholders easy access to the information gathered.  

Thank you in advance for helping to ensure that this is a comprehensive study by sharing your ideas! Please forward this email to others that may be interested and use #FirstRangers and #jointheBUSOstudy to post updates about the study on social media or to search for dialogues already taking place... let's get the conversation started!
For further questions, please contact the study's facilitators at BUSO_study@nps.gov.
Tara Pettit
Project Manager

NPS Denver Service Center

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